Marketing Control – you’ve got one, right?

Every small business should have a marketing control. What’s a marketing control? It is a reproducible means of gathering new customers where the investment and the return it produces are both known. It works constantly over time. It is reliable and always produces the same result, give or take.

Then the fun starts. You try to beat the control through testing. What do I mean by testing? Well, you can change the headline, the copy, the pictures…anything. And then run it. If you get better results, you have a new control. If not, your original control survives to fight another day.

It’s Darwinian. It’s survival of the fittest marketing approach.

A control is specific to the route-to-market. So you might have one for advertising in Magazine X, one for your web sign-up page, one for your direct mail (direct mail is not dead by the way), one for your script for cold-calling.

But of course to have a control you need to be able to measure response. As I have stated many times before without yet managing to bore myself, if you’re spending marketing money and not measuring response, you’re crazy. All marketing messages should have a call to action – what exactly are you asking the potential customer to do? And then you measure how many of them actually do it and in time become customers. Then you know your return-on-investment.

The control experiment comes from science – it shows what happens if you do nothing (i.e. run the same advert as last time). There’s a lot more rigour can be applied to marketing than usually is.

Beware the marketer who cannot offer measurable return-on-investment.

You will have controls already, maybe without realising it. It might be your web sign-up page, or your networking venue/frequency/technique. Pick one of them and establish your return-on-investment.

Then make a change. For example, change the bribe you offer people for signing up on your website. Track what this does to the percentage of unique visitors who actually sign-up. Then assume you have the same conversion rate of new sign-ups to customers (you can measure this more accurately in time). You now have your ROI.  Better or worse than before? Keep going – do it again, and again. Pretty soon you’ll get to a stage where improvements are harder and harder to come by. This is good, as you’re getting close to the optimum approach.

Marketing is often done really badly, if at all. It takes very little to be more effective in your marketing than the bulk of other people in your space. And the rewards go far beyond mere survival.

Just do it. As somebody says in their (very effective) marketing.

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2 Responses to Marketing Control – you’ve got one, right?

  1. Eilidh Milnes September 13, 2010 at 2:15 am #

    As ever Mark succinct and punchy. So I Tweeted it for you.
    Thanks as ever for reminder. An incidentally, you are not boring me either :)
    Just do it yes… and as a “DIN” girl – Do It Now…


  2. Anthony Madume September 13, 2010 at 7:36 am #

    Hi Mark,

    Good morning. Thanks for today’s Pearl of ‘Leadedrship Wisdom’ on Marketing. Interesting. I enjoyed reading it and will try it out myself. using the control systerm you suggested in my consultancy work and support to / with members of the – African Business Forum Merseyside, plus others who require my help or support.

    I received your invite and offer email to your forthcoming workshop and seminar by Manchester Airport. By God’s grace I’ll endeavour to attend, and might bring some colleagues if they’re available

    I hope you’re well.

    Regards, Anthony Madume

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